I stood in the middle of the Pike tailgate, staring at their large, wooden bar. After overhearing one of the Pikes laughing about how he had stolen our tent pole, chucked it in the woods, and watched in amusement as my pledge class spent the entire day on a desperate search, I was thrown into a blind rage.
In what seemed like a daydream, I faintly remember grabbing one of the bottles of Evan WIlliams that sat on top of the bar, and pouring it thoughtfully over the hulking piece of timber. After I had emptied the bottle, I picked up a roll of paper towels that had been stashed underneath the bar, and unraveled about a dozen sheets. I wadded them up into a ball and placed them at the foot of the bar. I then slowly, but methodically plucked my lighter out of my pants pocket. I flicked it once, and held it to the wad of paper towels.
As soon as the paper towels caught, I turned on my heel and began calmly walking toward my fraternity’s tent. It was dark outside, and no one could see me clearly, and no one but Allison had yet to notice the small fire I had just set.
Suddenly, the ground all around me erupted with light. I could clearly see my shadow on the ground in front of me. I turned around with disbelief, only to see a pillar of fire reminiscent of Biblical tales behind me. The liquor had caught, and the bar and the surrounding couches were in full blaze. The flames reached about three stories high.
Allison, whom I had left to coolly propagate the arson, let out a bloodcurdling scream, and began running toward the safety of the perimeter of fraternity tents as the tongues of the flames licked the night sky, and the embers fluttered across the lot in the wind. The Pike brothers fell back, startled, and in a state of bewilderment, began stumbling over themselves in an effort to get away from the flames.
I hadn’t counted on the bar burning with that much tenacity. The fucker was hot as hellfire and was scalding my face from 30 feet away.
Every single person at every single fraternity tailgate in that lot was now staring with gaping mouths at the tornado of fire blazing in the midst of the tents. There were no less than 600 faces lit up by the giant torch. Some people edged closer with awe, others shrank away with terror. Seconds later, pledges and brothers began to run around in a frenzy, moving couches, bars, and tents back from the furnace that used to be the gravel center of the encampment of tents.
I immediately sprinted off, away from the bar, and away from anyone who might be able to identify me. Into the darkness I ran, with fear for my future as my fuel.
Suddenly, the ground in front of me lit up with new lights. These were not the yellow flicks of light of the flames licking the night sky. These were red and blue. The cops that sat by the gates every Saturday had inevitably seen the three story flames, and had sped there as fast as they could.
My pace doubled. I was now in a full sprint for the woods that wrapped the tailgate lot like a horse shoe. In front of me there was an overgrown hill that crested in a ridge with a tall wire fence on it. I made a break for that hill, knowing full well that the entire fraternity lot was enclosed by fencing, and that the hill was my only means of escape. I sprinted up it at full speed, only to eat shit when kudzu wrapped around my ankles. I brushed myself off and continued up the hill to the fence more carefully, but still with haste.
When I reached the fence, my pounding heart sank. The fence reached a full three feet taller than me. Standing at about nine feet tall, this fence seriously fucked up my escape plan. Nonetheless, I hopped on it and began climbing. I got one leg over the top, then the other. I then tried to jump from the top of the wire obstruction.
The next second, I was suspended upside down. In utter bewilderment, I looked around trying to familiarize myself with what had just happened. I looked down, toward the top of the fence, and saw I was suspended by my left pant leg. It had caught on the top exposed wire of the fence. I climbed up my suspended leg with my hands, till I reached the puncture in my pants that I was suspended by. In a display of one part adrenaline, one part absolute terror, and one part survival instinct, I grabbed either side of the puncture and pulled it apart as hard as I could muster. The pants ripped clean from the bottom of the leg to my knee, and I fell to the ground with a heavy thud. I snapped myself up, and looked around. I was now right on the edge of a massive covered RV lot that stretched about 300 yards in each direction.
I sprinted through it as fast as I could. At some point, in my delirious, anarchic fit, I grabbed a fire extinguisher off one of the steel pillars of the covered lot and emptied it across the giant slab of concrete; this was totally unnecessary, as the fire was far behind me. Nonetheless, with shouts like a savage Apache chasing after some scalps, I ran through the fog of retardant I had unleashed; in my mind, it was like Cam Newton running out of the tunnel. In reality, I looked like a flailing stroke victim, trying to get the imaginary flames off my body
Shortly after this, my senses began to come back to me. The adrenaline began to leave my body, and left it shaking. This is when I began to think of where the fuck I was actually going. I knew I had to get the fuck out of the area, as I could still see the flames from the bar and couches burning in the tailgate lot some 500 yards below and behind me. Ahead of me, I saw the gleaming neon sign of Bojangles, shining with all of its heavenly majesty. I could almost hear the voice of cherubs and seraphs singing from its doors.
I made my way toward that Bojangles, and as I did, I called Dylan, who was probably scrambling to move our tent from the flames. He picked up the phone, and breathlessly asked me where the fuck I was and if I had seen the inferno. I told him I couldn’t explain, but that my life, my future and our pledge class as a whole depended on him picking me up at Bojangles about a mile and a half down the road. Like any true brother would, Dylan hopped in his truck and sped through the fraternity lot gates towards me.
As I walked through the door of Bojangles, and was hit in the face with the buttery smell of their chicken biscuits, I slumped into a chair, absolutely exhausted and out of breath. There I sat, with my head rested on my arm, waiting on my lift from Dylan.
As I closed my eyes, a new smell hit my nostrils. This one was distinct, and pungent. It had a strong, musky smell, a satisfactory and familiar tone that I could not ignore.
This was the smell of vengeance realized, and it smelled a hell of a lot like a bonfire..